July 15, 2022

Richard Whitehouse

With some three dozen versions currently available, Quatuor pour la fin du temps is the most recorded of Messiaen's larger works; any addition has to offer something distinctive to make the shortlist of a piece unique in this composer's output and almost in the chamber literature.
The new account features four musicians who, from or based in Denmark, gel effortlessly as an ensemble in an elegantly poised 'Liturgie de cristal', then have the measure of that repose framed by starkness in the 'Vocalise'. Johnny Teyssier is responsive to expressive contours in 'Abi'me des oiseaux' but might have made more of its dynamic extremes, then the players bring due finesse to the charms of'lntermede'. The likely emotional focal point, 'Louange a l'Eternite de Jesus', needs a greater inexorability of motion from Henrik Dam Thomsen, for all chat Per Salo is exemplary here and in the formidably unanimous 'Danse de la fureur'. Nor is the combative evolution of 'Fouilles d'arcs-en-ciel' underplayed, even if Christina Åstrand's restrained limpidity in Louange a l'Immortalite de Jesus' makes for a less than transcendent ending.
As to comparisons: chat on Sony is nearest in terms of overall conception but has greater character at crucial junctures, that with Trio Wanderer exudes irresistible verve and spontaneity; while chat from Pentatone provides a radically different approach interpretatively and contextually.
Next to these, this newcomer can seem just a little uninvolving though with its own undoubted musical virtues, while the booklet note, in its evocative commentary on the genesis of this work as well as the responses of those involved, provides an illuminating way into this masterpiece. Richard Whitehouse Gramophone July 2022